Monthly Archives: September 2013

Learning to love my management role

IMG_0757I was in college when I had my first management opportunity. Every Thursday night, our entire campus would crowd our 800 capacity chapel to sing/play music for an hour. The music was led by a band, which I became an active part of. First, I got into the band based on my bass-playing abilities (and because EVERYONE always needs a bassist 🙂 ). After a bit of time, however, I found myself playing guitar and singing a bit – assuming more responsibility. Before I knew it, I was one of the band leaders, planning, singing, playing, and coordinating a very large weekly gathering in one of the most coveted roles on campus. The role was loaded with responsibility, a need for attention to detail, and a need for being motivational to the people I was working with…but I could succeed largely upon my strong talent in this area.

I was in my first management job.

Everyone has ups in downs in their first management role. Heck, every management job has that – period. If someone tells you that’s not true, they’re not true. I had moments of forgetting song lyrics, missing a pitch, or breaking one (or a few 🙂 ) strings during a session…but I did well enough and I learned that, even though I loved playing music and being a part of that gathering, I moreso loved being in the driver’s seat, taking responsibility, and managing the people around me to do an amazing job at accomplishing a task… and collectively celebrating how awesome my team did in accomplishing our goal.

A year later, I fell into an awesome position, where I helped manage and run an online printing business. This company is a smallish one (15 employees give or take) and every person there has to wear multiple hats. However, as a manager at this job, I had to wear all hats at some point – well enough to teach any of those jobs. I was now in a position where I couldn’t rely entirely on my talents and abilities; I had to rely on the people around me. I learned to communicate with others, to be a leader but to be humble and to ask for help. I earned people’s respect, not by how great of a musician I was but by winning others over on a daily basis through respect, humility, and partnership.

My most recent leadership position began just over 2 years ago. I now work in a retail management capacity, functioning as a important cog on a management team of 4 people – running a high sales volume store with more than 50 employees. Like my other two previous roles, I’ve had my great moments and my “other” moments – but I’ve learned to be optimistic, consistent, balanced, dependable, bold, and decisive. I’m now being relied upon more than ever and I have no option to not succeed or to pass the buck to someone else. I have to be responsible because 50 people are relying on me to make the right decisions… and my success is now dependant upon what I do with those 50 people.

The bottom line is this: managing people is awesome but it is also not always for everyone. Each role has taught me something – the need to rely on abilities, the importance of being supported by and supporting a team, and how to view success – not just through myself – but through the collective. However, throughout all of this has been a thread of learning – and learning through a constant and borderline-obsessive desire to succeed in my role at almost any cost.

I’ve learned how necessary it is to have an inner, independent fire to succeed and an ability to adapt to and grow in any surroundings. I love the pressure, the responsibility, the challenge to succeed, and the people around me. And this is why I love being a manager.

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What can Breaking Bad show us about leadership?

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(image courtesy of AMC)

If your reaction to this title is “Whaaaaaa?!”…well…bear with me for a little bit.

Perhaps you are like the rest of the nation and are following the captivating tale of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. I’m definitely one of the majority; it’s an awesome show and definitely does not seem to have jumped the shark. 

So what can Breaking Bad tell us about leadership? Morals aside, consider these points:

1. People have captivating stories. We are drawn to this show – week in and week out – to witness the evolution of Walt, Jesse, Hank, Skylar, and the rest of the gang. The plot of the show is excellent and the show truly has no cinematic fault – but the characters are what keep us tuning in. Real life is also similar in this way when we can open our eyes. The people around us that we lead or even simply encounter in our daily life hold similar stories. Whether our eyes are open to the amazement of this is up to us… but it can definitely add life to what we do as leaders.

2. People can change. Without giving away too much, it is amazing to see Jesse and Walt reverse roles as Breaking Bad unfolds. Similarly, the people we are leading can change; they can improve themselves or they can fade away. Either way, it is important to believe and understand that people ebb and flow. Our examples as leaders contributes to how and where the people around us evolve. 

3. People are imperfect. Hank is one of our protagonists, one of the good guys, but Hank definitely has his flaws. The same goes for any of the other “good guys” on Breaking Bad… and in real life. It is important to remember that we all as leaders are doing the best job we can but we are also imperfect. It is our duty to stay the course as best we can.

Walter White definitely is not the kind of leader that I would recommend any of us aspiring toward. However, hopefully you can take some good things from this show and you can apply them to your daily leadership example.

 

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Tying together a diverse workforce

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This is part 3, the final part, in a series on how to create the perfect team.

Previously, we’ve visited the needs of an having an emotionally intelligent and intrinsically motivated staff. In this article, we’ll focus on how important it is to have a diverse staff.

One of the major buzz-terms that employers have been focusing on for the last couple decades is diversity. The term “diversity” often inspires images of gender differences, cultural differences, age differences, and lifestyle differences. However, diversity in the workforce also must refer to employing people who are different from each other as far as personality, likes, strengths and weaknesses, passions, and interests. A workplace is like an engine in a car; to accurately work, there need to be different parts. It is imperative that one assemble and develop a team that is composed of people who are introverts and extroverts, have different personalities and varying skillsets. This is where you – the leader – comes in.

There are two ways that you can affect the diversity of your team. First off, hiring. It is important to find the right balance for your team so that your staff reflects who your customers are. The second part, however, is the trickier one and requires savvy. As the leader, it is your responsibility to tie your staff together while honoring and encouraging diversity. Some ways that you can do this:

1. Identify unique attributes and strengths in employees and give them roles that allow these strengths to shine (check out the strengthsfinder test if you haven’t… it should help with this!). If Jimmy is a person who is extremely organized and loves spreadsheets, give him some administrator duties. If Jenny is a person who is a complete social butterfly, make sure she is customer facing.

2. Encourage diverse ideation. Create a way for your employees to contribute ideas for their workplace. Consider having a potluck day once a month where people can bring a food dish that they love to make so that you can celebrate cultural diversity. Perhaps you can have a month per year where you celebrate women in leadership and you can draw attention and awareness of how new this movement still is. Or…you can see what your team submits as ideas 🙂

3. Model. Modeling is the most consistent and practical application for tying diversity together in a workplace. Model tolerance, enthusiasm, respect, empathy, and model inclusion. People want to be included and welcomed into a group. Your employees will be looking at you for how to do this… so set the example.

Our world has never been as diverse as it is today. This is something that ought be embraced and celebrated, as well as utilized in our businesses. When we can harness and honor diversity, we reflect the diversity of our customer base, and our workplaces  profit immensely… so go do it!

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Can intrinsic motivation be taught?

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This is part 2 in a series on how to create the perfect team.

Part 1 of this series was about collecting and cultivating a culture of emotional intelligence. While emotional intelligence is HUGELY important, there are other factors that lead to success – one of which is manifesting a community that is intrinsically motivated towards success.

So what is intrinsic motivation? To understand this best, let’s take a step back. Motivation is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a force or influence that causes someone to do something.” However, there are two types of motivation: extrinsic and intrinsic motivation.

Extrinsic Motivation – Pertains to outside forces and factors that motivate a person to do something. Examples may be a paycheck and material rewards.

Intrinsic Motivation – Pertains to internal forces and factors that motivate a person to do something. Examples may be the feeling of achieving and moral obligations.

For a long time, businesses considered extrinsic motivation to be worthwhile (and perhaps it was at one point). However, times and culture have changed, and there is a myriad of research available now that shows that extrinsically motivated people can do well in spurts but intrinsically motivated people are leaders, consistent, and the most successful. It’s a bit like musicians; Musicians making music solely for moneary reward often burn out quickly or are terrible (think New Kids on the Block) – but musicians making music to express an internal feeling or experience will write music that more often has an impact on others (think Nirvana). Intrinsic motivation feels different and looks different.

So how can we influence others to be more intrinsically motivated?

1. Define success. Some people don’t even know what success looks like. Having clear expectations allows a person to know what they need to do to succeed.

2. Create a way for a person to keep score of their performance. Intrinsic motivation involves an element of understanding if someone is doing well or not. Keeping score can refer to displaying metrics (a scoresheet) or supplying people with inventories that allow them to qualitatively rate themselves on your defined standards of success.

3. Be good to others. I once worked for a boss who treated his employees amazingly well. Every single person in that office worked hard for him because we wanted him to be proud of us.

4. Give feedback. Parnter with the people around you and let them know that you care about their success and the job they’re doing. Being noticed by another person is a powerful feeling of affirmation and perpetuates positive behavior.

5. Create a culture of intrinsically motivated success. Encourage those around you who “get it” to spread the wealth. The power of cultural majority and peer pressure is an amazingly powerful force that ought be harnessed.

Imagine coming to work and being surrounded by people who truly want to do a great job in everything they do. This is possible when we inspire others to develop intrinsic motivation.

What are some other ideas you have on influencing this shift?

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Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?

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This is part 1 in a series on how to create the perfect team.

One of the fastest growing areas in business psychology and sociology right now is emotional intelligence. EI refers to a person’s ability to observe, relate to, and accurately discern the social and situational cues around them – and to react to and utilize those variables constructively. If this is a new term for you and you are actively in the business and/or leadership development business (and honestly – who isn’t?!), you need to spend some time learning about EI! Many leading experts on EI – such as Daniel Goleman – have linked EI to a person’s social, professional, and leadership success.

Forward-thinking businesses are beginning to actively seek out employees who have a high EQ. This can be done through group interviews (versus more traditional individual interviews), scenario-based questions, and active coaching around EI traits. Almost gone are the days where someone could achieve a position in a company based solely on their academic prowess…which brings me to the purpose of this article.

Many people are beginning to ask “Can EI be taught.” And – if so – how can we increase this in the people around and underneath us? The NY Times has recently published a very respectable article on this. 

Clearly EI is a big deal and is something we all need in order to succeed. What do you think? Can EI be taught? And, if so, how?

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perspective

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My wife posted this on her blog. I’m not usually into reposting stuff but this is a good one for any topic.

In this video, the astronauts reveal how seeing the world from a different perspective has changed how they see the world. Perhaps it’d be healthy to look at our jobs, groups, and lives in general through a different perspective…and to question how we can do things differently with this new perspective.

Give it a read/watch. It’s well worth it.

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Are you controlling?

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